Tunis - Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali is set on Monday
to resume talks with political party leaders to form a new government of
technocrats, despite strong opposition within his own ruling Islamist party
On the eve of the talks with Tunisian media urged political
groups to reach a consensus for tackling the crisis that has gripped the
country since the February 6 assassination of leftist opposition leader and
vocal anti-Islamist Chokri Belaid.
However Ennahda party chief Rached Ghannouchi has strongly
reiterated his party's refusal to relinquish power in line with an initiative proposed
by Jebali, the party's number two, to form a government of technocrats.
"Ennahda... will never give up power, as long as it
benefits from the confidence of the people and the legitimacy of the
ballot," Ghannouchi told thousands of supporters who rallied Saturday in
Tunis against Jebali's plan.
Belaid's murder came after months of failure by the ruling
coalition to overhaul the government, and sparked bloody clashes between
opposition supporters and police, as well as attacks on Ennahda offices.
Jebali has threatened to resign if he fails to secure the
support he needs to form his new government.
After meeting the leaders of the main parties on Friday,
Jebali said talks on the new administration had been rescheduled for Monday and
that a previous Saturday deadline for its formation had been cancelled, with no
new date set.
Tunisian media on Sunday expressed deep concern over the
"There are huge fears that this initiative, which has
the backing of most of the opposition and the public, will be buried tomorrow,
plunging Tunisia into a new cycle of conflict and political wrangling,"
said Le Temps daily.
"We do not see how Jebali can reverse the tide and
alter the position of his party and its allies," the newspaper said.
La Presse said that "good intentions must be followed
by concrete actions and a shared desire to make concessions", referring to
Jebali's cautious optimism about the rescheduled talks.
The Arabic-language Essabah said political consensus was a
"The nature of the crisis and its possible impact
necessitates a break with partisan policies in order to seek a consensus,"
Since an uprising toppled the regime of former strongman
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali two years ago, Tunisia has been rocked by violent
attacks, blamed on Salafist Muslim extremists, and social unrest over dire
Ennahda, which was repressed under Ben Ali, won the October
2011 polls and controls the key foreign, interior and justice ministries in the
coalition cabinet, as well as 89 seats in the 271-strong National Constituent
But it is divided between moderates, among whom Jebali is
the most prominent, and hardliners, represented by Ghannouchi, who are refusing
to give up the key portfolios, insisting on the party's electoral legitimacy.
The family of Belaid has accused Ennahda of orchestrating
his killing, which enflamed simmering tensions between liberals and Islamists
in the once proudly secular Muslim nation.